The 2018 academic session marks 50 years since UCL elevated its traditional study of Hebrew (established in 1826) into the independent Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies that we all know today.
2018 also marks the 10-year anniversary of the passing of John Klier, professor of Eastern European Jewish history and Head of Department between 1994 and 2002.
In order to memorialise these two major anniversaries, the Department held a commemorative evening on 7 February 2018. The event drew around 150 attendees, consisting of students, staff, alumni, and friends of the Department.
One of the things that makes the Department so special is our fantastic alumni, such as Richard Bolchover, a student in the Department from 1979 to 1983 who graduated with a BA in Hebrew Literature and Jewish History and has maintained close links with us ever since. He provided us with a spirited overview of his experiences as a Hebrew and Jewish Studies undergraduate in the early 1980s, noting that at the time, the Department was singled out in the national university admissions handbook for topping the charts in three distinct areas: ‘highest staff-student ratio’ (little has changed since then!), ‘highest dropout rate’, and ‘highest number of fails’ (I am happy to report that these are no longer the case!).
Philip Alexander, Professor of Postbiblical Jewish Literature at the University of Manchester and long-time friend and associate of the Department, gave the second keynote address of the evening. He provided a rousing overview of the last 50 years of Jewish Studies in the UK, and of the Department’s role in the development of the field.
In addition to HJS colleagues, alumni, and friends from other universities, we were also very fortunate to be joined by Anthony Smith, UCL Vice Provost (Education and Student Affairs), who spoke about the Department’s place within the wider UCL context, and by Stella Bruzzi, Dean of the UCL Arts and Humanities Faculty, who delivered the closing address.
The evening’s programme was followed by a reception where there was an opportunity to catch up with the wider HJS community. I feel very privileged to have been able to celebrate with friends and colleagues, to meet so many alumni, and to hear about their experiences as students in the Department.
We are grateful to our friends and supporters who made the event possible with their generous donations, as well as to all the Departmental staff, students, and speakers who contributed to it with their time and expertise. We are also very grateful to the UCL Arts and Humanities Faculty for filming and photographing the event.
We look forward to seeing you at the Department’s 100th anniversary celebration!
(Lily Kahn, Purim 2018 Departmental Newsletter)